Five Questions For Jim Chiddix

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San Francisco-based OpenTV Inc. supplies its middleware platform to EchoStar Communications Corp. and direct-broadcast satellite providers worldwide. Now, chairman and CEO Jim Chiddix says momentum is picking up with cable operators as well. Before joining OpenTV in 2004, Chiddix had been president of Mystro TV, a business-and-technology development division of Time Warner. Prior to that, he was chief technology officer at Time Warner Cable. He talked recently with Multichannel News Internet Editor Steve Donohue.

MCN: How are talks going with U.S. MSOs?

Jim Chiddix: We are gaining traction. We’re talking with Comcast about a more-comprehensive solution that would include both [advertising] inventory management and interactive and targeted advertising. And in the process of those discussions, we hope to settle some litigation we had against Liberate [Comcast controls interactive-TV vendor Liberate Technologies Inc.]. It would be nice to wrap the whole thing up and be done with it. No one wants to pay lawyers anymore, and suing your customers is not good.

MCN: Timing?

JC: We have a stay in court until May. We’re in active discussions with Comcast.

MCN: Is Microsoft [Corp.] a direct competitor?

JC: We never see Microsoft in the marketplace, except going after the telcos. They seem to have lost interest in cable and satellite, and they’re just getting started in the telco market. Internationally we often run up against [News Corp.’s] NDS.

MCN: How do your license fees for middleware range?

JC: If you divide our middleware revenue by the number of copies that go out during the year, you come up with something in the order of magnitude of five bucks or so [per subscriber]. Sometimes it’s a monthly fee; sometimes it’s a one-time fee.

MCN: What does OpenTV stand to gain from being a part of CableLabs’ Open Cable Applications Platform patent pool?

JC: The patent pool charge for OCAP and MHP [Multimedia Home Platform standard] is going to be in the $3 range [per subscriber] for the intellectual property. That’s the whole pie [OpenTV will get a cut based on its contribution of patents].

The point of OCAP is it isn’t dirt cheap. It fulfills a need for the industry to have a platform both for their boxes and through retail that’s standards based.

MCN: You were CTO at Time Warner Cable. Were you involved with the Mystro video-on-demand project?

JC: Mystro was mine. [Former Time Warner Cable chairman] Joe Collins and I did Mystro.

MCN: What do you think of Cablevision and other MSOs pursuing network DVRs?

JC: I think it’s great. I completely believe in the idea of doing time shift on a central server for cable operators. I think it’s inevitable, and I’m glad to see the idea moving forward.

There are rights issues that will have to be worked out — obviously, Cablevision has a different view of the need for rights than Time Warner does. The technology is absolutely doable.